Some days I just need the solace of the readings that come from the lectionary---the daily regimen of biblical selections, prayers and meditations that the Benedictine monastic traditions provide. I don’t think the monks have any advantage over any of us living in the world apart from the monastery. But I do think the monks have a spiritual advantage because of their intentionality. They are intentional about the spiritual life. They weave the spiritual life around periods of worship and work.
That’s probably one of the main reasons I like to spend some time in the monastery. I don’t think it necessarily makes me any more spiritual. But it does make it easier for me to be spiritual. Being in a monastery routinizes my day in a way that feels physically, emotionally and spiritually quite healthy. On my own it is much more of a struggle. It is easy to live my life out of balance---out of whack!
I realized this again this morning as I turned to the morning reading that I knew every Benedictine monk around the globe would give focus. Of course, I could have turned to these readings---the Psalms and other scripture passages, but it is easier to let them set my spiritual plate. One of the readings from the Psalms spoke to my condition.
One of the Psalms’ passages for this morning comes from Psalm 85. The Psalmist has an attitude that I would like to have. The Psalmist says, “I will listen to whatever the Lord God tells me…” (85:8) Too often, I am too busy or uninterested to listen to whatever God wants to tell me. Obviously, this is pretty stupid. Of course, I want to listen to whatever the Lord tells me. But this means taking some time to listen, to wait if necessary, and pay attention. I can do it. But too often, I don’t. This is a good place for spiritual growth. I can start today. Or I can put it off for a later day!
If I listen, the Psalmist says that God “will speak peace to the people and to the chosen ones.” And then this line is added. God will speak “to those who repent in their hearts.” I would love to have peace spoken to me and to my people. Peace is preferable to the conflict and chaos that characterizes some of our lives. Bombings, untimely deaths, and other disasters can be answered with peace spoken into that terrible context. I want to hear those words of peace---and become a speaker of peace in the contexts I find myself.
I value the Psalmist’s words of assurance that follow. We are told that surely God’s “salvation is close to those who fear God.” (85:9) I don’t think the fear referenced here is the ‘scary” kind of fear. It is the fear that is rooted in awe; it is fear grounded in respect for the God of the universe. I am not sure I know what all this “salvation” means. I like the root word in salvation and that is “salve.” Salvation is the salve---the healing---that fixes the wounds of life and the world. When that healing happens, the Psalmist tells us that God’s glory will come into our midst.
Finally comes my favorite piece of this Psalm. Of course, some of the attractiveness is the translation. The translation that I use from the lectionary puts it this way. “Kindness and faithfulness have met together, justice and peace have kissed.” (85:10) This lovely language is describing the context after salvation has come and God’s glory is reigning. When this happens, the bombings, death, and disasters of our day disappear. In their place kindness and faithfulness appear. Kindness and faithfulness is what salvation looks like when it is present.
Not only that, justice and peace characterize life in God’s glory. In fact that is probably how we will know whether God’s salvation has come. If salvation has come, then peace and justice will be kissing. This is graphic language. That language tells me that when justice reigns, peace inevitable will come, too. They will kiss---they will meet. And the contrary is also true. If justice is missing, there will be no peace. It is probably that simple.
When I understand the Psalmist, I realize that the call is not to any particular theology. It matters how we view God. I don’t dismiss theology as unimportant. But more importantly in my mind is the call to action. Of course, justice is an idea---a concept. But to have an idea of justice is not yet justice. Justice is real when it occurs in dealings and relationships between people. Justice happens when people are treated equally and fairly. When that happens, peace happens.
Justice and peace kiss each other. This happens because faithfulness and kindness have paved the way. It seems clear to me that kindness prepares the way for justice. If I am committed to acts of kindness, then I likely aim for justice. To be kind is to seek to be just. To be unkind usually signals some kind of selfishness.
Thankfully I have been given this day. I can respond to the call to action. Through me this day, may peace and justice kiss.